Reviews

DVD Releases: ‘The Round Up’

Rose Bosch’s The Round Up (2010) retells the story of the infamous Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup during the Second World War where over 13,000 Parisian Jews, including 4000 children, were dragged out of their homes and forced to endure the inhumane conditions of life in the now notorious Vel’ d’Hiv stadium.

The atrocities depicted within The Round Up successfully conveys the potential evil of humanity, and our readiness to neglect our fellow man in an act of self preservation – in this case it is the governing body of a nation that acts quickly to preserve its own safety. However, the films’ overriding tone is one of humility, as the complicity of the French police and government during the war is exposed powerfully by Rose Bosch’s intense drama.

Bosch brings a dark period in French history to the forefront of contemporary French culture with a conscious recognition of the erring of its government, police and citizens alike and voices, on behalf of the French consciousness, some sense of public atonement for the lack of resistance shown in the face of the malevolence of Hitler’s machinations.

The most significant aspect of the movie is its focus on the role of French people and institutions, and their abhorrent treatment of the French Jewish community in WWII. All too often we are reminded of the atrocities conducted by the German Army under Hitler’s reign, but rarely are we reminded of the other acts of inhumanity perpetrated by other nations during WWII, that comprise one of man’s most shameful moments in history.

It is hard to deny the significance of Bosch’s film, as anyone with a sense of historical awareness knows what horrors lay in wait for the innocent Jewish people as they boarded the trains for Poland in 1942. Therefore, the focus on the personal lives of a few Jewish people and their families amidst the chaotic and traumatic events that faced an entire race, along with a focus on the French government and its treatment of Parisian Jews, makes The Round Up all the more important as a film. Bosch manages to painfully convey not only the severe human cost of war, but the callous behaviour of so many as they turned the other cheek in an act of self-preservation.

To tell such a powerful story, Bosch has utilised two French acting heavyweights in Jean Reno (as Dr. David Scheinbaum) and Melanie Laurent (as the wonderful Annette Monod). The emotive performance by Laurent is recognisable in every nuance of her every facial expression, while Reno provides the cool presence audiences on a worldwide level are now accustomed to. The subtle nature of the romance that develops between the two reflects the gentle humanism that each character brings to the plot and provides momentary respite for the film’s painful evocation of war.

In addition to the sensitive performances given by Reno and Laurent, Bosch has employed a wonderfully talented cast to tell this neglected story, and each one of them, including the experienced and hugely successful French actor Gad Elmeleh and the supremely gifted talent of young Hugo Leverdez, adds to the weight of this film’s message.

The film’s importance to French history and culture cannot be underestimated and with its focus on story and performance the emphasis of its focus is placed firmly on humanity and humanism. The Round Up serves as an important record for one of humanity’s lowest moments.

Russell Cook